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Kachemak Bay Research Reserve

Kachemak Bay Research Reserve boundaries

Located at the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska, the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve (KBRR) is the only fjord-type estuary in the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) System.

Glacial meltwater coupled with ocean circulation patterns drive an abundance of marine plants, birds, fish, and other organisms. Kachemak Bay is characterized by submerged glacial moraine at the mouth and snow-covered peaks and ice sheets guarding the south. The Harding Icefield, one of the last remaining alpine ice sheets left in North America, spawns 15 glaciers that flow into Kachemak Bay.

Well over 60 species of waterfowl and marine birds rely on Kachemak Bay for feeding and breeding. The bay supports marine mammals including whales, porpoises, Steller sea lions, seals, and sea otters, as well as abundant salmon and halibut, and smaller populations of clams, and crabs. These marine resources support a vibrant fishing community and sustain wildlife populations including bear, river otter, and wolf.

KBRR is a state-federal-local partnership managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with input from a Community Council made-up of community members and state and federal agency partners.

The work done by KBRR provides a basis for informed coastal decision-making and stewardship through integrated research, monitoring, education, and professional training. Research staff and visiting scientists conduct research and monitoring within watersheds and coastal areas of the Reserve. The education team hosts public discovery labs and outdoor programs that focus on coastal and estuarine ecology. The Coastal Training Program provides workshops and trainings targeting coastal management professionals, and covering topics of concern to the local community.

The bathymetry, or bottom of the Bay, is characterized by a submerged glacial moraine or sill at the mouth of the Bay and deep trenches and holes extending to almost 200 m (600 ft) deep within the Bay. The Bay is separated into an inner and outer bay by a 7 km (4.5 mile) long relic glacial moraine spit that extends south from the community of Homer (pop. 5,400). The south side of the bay is mostly rocky and lined by rugged snow covered mountains. Because the tree line elevation at this latitude is only 500 m (1500 ft), the 2000 m (6,000 ft) alpine summits resemble those of much loftier mountain ranges. Fifteen glaciers flow into Kachemak Bay from the Harding and other icefields, some of the last remaining ice fields in North America. Large volumes of sediments derived from these glaciers help build and sustain the predominantly sand and gravel beaches surrounding the estuary. The Fox River Flats, at the head of the bay, is a huge salt marsh complex supporting thousands of migratory birds, five species of Pacific salmon, and serves as an important haul-out for harbor seals.

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